Some challenging moments in refereeing this year

Friday December 29 2017

Edwin Mudanyi follows the progress of his tee shot from 10th tee during the Kenya Amateur Matchplay Championship on June 21, 2017 at Vet Lab Sports Club. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |

Edwin Mudanyi follows the progress of his tee shot from 10th tee during the Kenya Amateur Matchplay Championship on June 21, 2017 at Vet Lab Sports Club. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

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As the sun sets on the year 2017 and we spend time with family and friends on the proverbial nineteenth hole, we may do well to reflect on the footprints on the sands of time.

This was a great year for me in as far as golf is concerned. Not that you will find my name in roll of championship winners. No. I was not the star in any championship but I enjoyed my cameo role in a number of events in the year.

The 2017 annals of golf will not have the names of the referees nor the people who marked the course to ensure that golf competitions were played in fair conditions.

When this year’s champions, like Edwin Mudanyi the winner of the Kenya Amateur Golf Championship, or Jordan Spieth The Champion Golfer of 2017, are celebrating their win and looking forward to a better 2018, I can’t help but look back at some of the challenging moments in refereeing in the year.

Few times I floundered when it came to the application of the Rules and other times I irked golfers when I delivered unpopular pronouncements.

The odd shot at the Barclays Kenya Open. On the 17th hole at Muthaiga Golf Club, one of the players at this year’s Barclays Kenya Open overshot the green on his second shot and the ball seemed to have rolled out of bounds.

I was very close to the green when this happened and I quickly rushed there for a quick inspection. The ball was near the fence but still in play. I gestured to the player that the ball was in play and that he did not need to play another ball. I assessed his options and instinctively knew that he would not have a decent shot to the green. I was certain that his only option was to deem the ball unplayable and I prepared by looking at the place where he would drop the ball within two club-lengths that was not nearer the hole.

Once satisfied, I stepped back and waited for the player. He arrived and assessed his options and he looked to me and asked if he was allowed to play the ball backwards between his legs.

That was not the kind of question I had anticipated.

I was very ready to show him the area he could take his two club-lengths after deeming his ball unplayable. But no! this guy had to go and throw a curve ball. It was like walking into one of those village kiosks where the most striking meal served is ng’ombe-chapati and ask for spaghetti Bolognese.

For a moment I was stumped not sure whether to call for help. Then I remembered that someone in one of the Rules Schools had asked a similar question.

I remember many spectators walking up to me and asking if that was indeed allowed when they saw the player execute a perfect backward shot between his legs. The Rules only prohibit such a shot on the green but since he was not on the green, there was nothing wrong.

Obstructions in Water Hazards at The Open. I was very pleased to be invited to referee at The 146th Open at Royal Birkdale this year.

Being the first Kenyan invited to referee at one the most important golf tournament in the world, I was keen to make a good impression.

I read up on Rules in preparation but when I was first called upon to make what would be a standard decision, my mind went blank.

The player’s ball was inside the margin of a water hazard but was resting against television cables. Was the player entitled to relief? The alarm bells in my mind were louder than a cathedral’s bells.

At that moment, all I could think about were the cameras probably zooming in at that very moment.

Then I remembered that more experienced referees were just a radio call away. I made the call and as I was explaining the situation to the other referee, it suddenly came to me.

Even before the answer came back, I was explaining to the player that the television cable is what in golf parlance is known as movable obstruction.

He was allowed to move it. Before he moved the cable, I advised him to mark the position of the ball and just as I had expected, when he moved the cable, the ball moved. He was allowed to replace the ball where it lay before.

If it was not for the prolonged electioneering, this would have been the perfect year for me.

All the same, I have enjoyed the golfing side of it and I look forward to an even busier 2018. The Rules of Golf will be going through a major overhaul and I look forward to being here to shed some light on these.

May all your golf rounds in 2018 bring you joy. Happy New Year.